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XBox 360 Review: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow

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Konami has finally brought a new adventure-based Castlevania to next (current?) gen systems with Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. Unfortunately, it was better off where it was on the old ones.

Lords of Shadow is a reboot of the classic franchise and takes Castlevania from its side-scrolling roots to a 3D hack-and-slash action game.  This has been tried before with varying results and unfortunately, it doesn’t fare very well here.

You are Gabriel Belmont, a Holy Knight of the Brotherhood of Light, who must save the world from a dark spell that traps departed souls in limbo, including Gabriel’s wife.  There are strange creatures attacking innocent people and it is your duty to protect them and to end the Lords of Shadow’s spell to save the world.  Nothing groundbreaking here.  At one point, you come across a fellow brother, Zobek (voiced lazily by Patrick Stewart), who helps you on your journey.  Well, helps in the sense that he reads to you between each level.  If I say anything else about the story it would be spoilery and as disappointing as the game is in terms of story, I won’t ruin it for anyone.

That’s not to say the game is bad necessarily.  It is fun for a while but it quickly gets dull and you never get a real sense of progress because every five minutes the game stops you to read a scroll or teach you a move.  Worse than that, the moves you are learn never really feel any better than just attacking with your weapon.  Essentially, they’re just standard combo attacks (X, X, X, or hold X, then X X again).  It is really irritating having to stop the game every time a scroll is discovered or they want to teach you something; as soon as you get going you’re brought to a screeching halt.  Even the story gets boring and Patrick Stewart doing the voice-over is downright snooze worthy.

Worse yet, it doesn’t feel like a Castlevania game.  It doesn’t have the atmosphere or the mood of the franchise.  Instead, it just comes off like a run of the mill dark ages hack-and-slash with a lucrative franchise name attached to it.  And guess what?  It’s exactly that.

The sad thing is I was really looking forward to this title.  I was excited to sink back into the Castlevania universe.  I didn’t get that experience. 

That said, the game is gorgeous to look at.  The graphics and visuals are stunning.  It really is a beautiful game.  But, for every positive there is at least one negative and the game play is pretty standard.    Nothing really stands out very much and there is certainly nothing new brought to the table.  It’s pretty much Devil May Cry/God of War/Dante’s Inferno in a different environment.  Barely.

It also seems to be overly difficult at some points.  I found myself dying over and over against enemies, not even bosses.  The ‘lieutenant’ enemies at times seem harder than the bosses!  Speaking of which, the boss battles are pretty fun, if somewhat lacking in innovation.  Some are straight up beat’em up fights while others add some puzzle elements.  There is a golem in a frozen lake at one point which is the a pretty fun (and frustrating) example of the latter.

On another note, you shouldn’t expect to have full health at all in this game.  Ever.  In fact, it is nearly impossible to maintain any safe level of health.  Even when using the magic that is supposed to restore your health.  I never had enough magic stored to make this worthwhile because I kept having to use it so much.

In the end, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is just what I feared it would be — a poor attempt to capitalize off a famous name using run of the mill, tired, game styles.  it has moments of fun but over all, it’s just a forgettable way to kill some time.  In fact, I’ve already lost complete interest in it now that Fallout:  New Vegas is out.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Nudity, Violence. This game can also be found on: PS3.

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About Garon Cockrell

  • Carmilla

    This is a solid GOTY candidate. Even more, possibly one of best action adventure games EVER.
    You reviewers shouldn’t write about games if you are not able to properly analyze them. Your article clearly states you don’t like the game. Fair enough. But you are light years far from understanding and appreciating this game. Thank goodness most of gamers out there are enjoying it.